Study Room Policy Change (or, LOCKDOWN!)

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For the second half of the semester, we’re experimenting with another tweak in the study room usage policy.  You still check them out for 3 hour periods at the Circulation Desk and leave your Bryant ID as collateral, but now all the rooms are being kept locked, so after you check out the room, someone will need to open it up for you.

We found that even with the check out policy in place, people were still “jumping the queue” and taking rooms without signing them out first, leading to a number of confusing situations on busier nights.  So we figured we’d give this a shot to see if this helps lessen these sorts of problems.  It’s a little extra work for us, but if it works, it’ll be worth it.  And the exercise is nice.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or advice in regards to this change?  Be sure to let us know, either here on the blog, over the phone (x6125), or in an email.

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2 thoughts on “Study Room Policy Change (or, LOCKDOWN!)

  1. Jeff

    This is a little excessive. This is not socialism.. There does not need to be a fair shot for everyone.

    First come first serve, plain and simple.

  2. Pat Crawford

    Hi Jeff-

    Thank you for willingness to post a comment to the library blog. Some background might be helpful to establish and maintain thoughtful and constructive insight and conversation. When we ask for feedback, we really do mean all types of feedback… the good, the bad, and the ugly. What we would ask for however, is a degree of civility towards one another.

    First and foremost – there seems to be this prevailing rumor on campus that students could reserve rooms; this has never been a library policy. Even in our old digs at the Unistructure, we never had this policy; it has always been first-come, first-serve. While in the Unistructure, we took IDs; we had no time limit; and we imposed no occupancy restrictions. The only exception to this, while in the Unistructure, was at final exams, during which time we had a three hour time limit. So please, let’s dispel this “reservation” myth once and for all. That said, it doesn’t mean that we are not entertaining the idea; indeed, it’s a great idea and we are looking to see how we can best implement this.

    The library moved into Bello back in September 2002 and, almost immediately, students began to express displeasure with the study room policy. The policy? The same policy we had set in place for years: first-come, first-serve. This time however, we did not ask for student IDs, nor did we intervene during final exams. We left it up to you, the student body, to work amongst yourselves. We certainly did not anticipate the flood of criticism that was headed our way.

    Problems quickly arose when students (either as individuals and/or groups of 2-5) would come to the library and by late morning, began to “camp out” until closing time at midnight (now what is 1:30am). Students would grab a room, study for an hour or two, leave the study room but leave their belongings behind, go grab some lunch, come back an hour or two later, study some more for a couple of hours, leave the room and, again, leave their belongings behind, go to class, come back, leave and grab a bite for dinner, come back an hour or two later, and then study for the duration of the evening.

    The upshot? Very few students had access to the study rooms and the masses were upset. Students began to voice their concerns to both the library staff and the Student Senate. In turn, the library began to informally monitor study room usage. We established a student minimum occupancy with a 3-hour limit; of course, if rooms were empty, an individual or two students could certainly use the room. If a group of three or more students was looking to use a room and a room was occupied by only one or two students, we encouraged the larger group to come downstairs and we would make the switch on their behalf.

    However, this still didn’t help with the “camping out” dynamic and, with no hands-on library policy and monitoring capabilities, no one (neither students nor staff) had any way of knowing just how long a group had been occupying a room.

    This setup continued for several years, but the majority of students were still unhappy with the loose policy and asked for increased library involvement. Truly, we understood and studied various approaches to accommodate the majority. As I’m sure you are well aware, pleasing 100% of the crowd 100% of the time is impossible. So, while the majority has now seemingly been accommodated, the minority is unhappy, and so the vicious cycle continues.

    This past January, we proactively approached the problem as voiced by the majority of students who continued seeking direct library intervention. Asking students to drop off their IDS and provide a 3-hour time minimum seemed to be a logical beginning. As we discussed possible options, we remained mindful of the “shades of gray” scenarios and came up with this evolving process:

    * Keep the rooms locked: why? So students would have to stop at the front desk, leave their IDS, and thereby begin to monitor the three hour time frame. Without this initial step, the entire policy is moot, irrelevant, and brings us right back to September 2002.

    * Hold onto student IDs: why? To avoid camping. If we know who is already in the room, then we can prevent group members from cycling through each other’s IDs and camping out. Theoretically, a group of four students, for example, could camp out for 12 hours if we didn’t ask for IDs. Don’t have your ID on hand? Not a problem; that’s what those yellow slips of paper are for.

    * Establish a 3-person minimum occupancy: why? The study rooms are highly conducive to group work and, based on concerns voiced by students over the past 6.5 years; this seems to be a fairly universal perception. We have heard for years that one or two people shouldn’t be allowed to take up a room when a larger group needs to work on a group project and needs to be in an area where they can talk freely without disturbing those around them. And, of course, we hope that the monitors provided by our Media Department have been helpful for group work purposes.

    * Establish a 3-hour minimum time frame. If a group of three or more is using a room and there’s not a group of 3+ looking to free one up, then that group can, by all means, extend the three hour minimum limit; i.e., they don’t have to leave until we might need to ask them to leave, if at all. It all depends upon the dynamics of the day/night. And by checking out a room, we can clearly establish with certainty how long a group has been in a room. That said, a group of three or more is always guaranteed a minimum three hour stay; far better than never even getting an opportunity to use a room at all.

    * But I’m not with other people… If there are available rooms, anyone can always check out a room, irrespective of the number in the group (i.e., one student or a pair). If all rooms were in use, and a group of three or more was looking for a room, then the group of two or less would be the first ones to be asked to vacate, irrespective of the time that they have been in the room. But again, if groups of three or more students are not occupying these rooms, then any individual student or pair of students is more than welcome to set up shop until a larger group comes along.

    So where do we go from here? It would seem to some students as though we are evil and ruthless, regardless of the tacks we take. The library staff is not trying to make your life miserable; quite the contrary. But please understand that herding cats sounds easier than pleasing a few thousand students. If we can make the majority happy, then we think we’re on the right track.

    We will continue to look at the “reservation” issue, because really, that seems to be a core and universal concern; and we do agree that this is a useful and reasonable request. But as for the other issues at hand: the locked vs. unlocked rooms; the 3 hour minimum vs. camping; the minimum occupancy vs. individual use; the IDs vs. no IDs… can you see where this is going?

    Both sides, the majority and the minority are always at odds with each other and the library is stuck in the middle. This is a hard place to be, because we want to help everyone and make the best decisions based on a democratic consensus. So really, I’m not quite sure to what the Socialism comment refers; I don’t mean to sound disrespectful here; indeed, I don’t want to break my own rules of engagement. I just don’t know how to respond to that particular comment, but don’t want to ignore your concerns.

    Please stop by if you would like to talk about this further; face-to-face interaction tends to lend itself better to conducive conversation. The written word often times precludes the ability to adequately and effectively express thoughts, and interpretations are left open-ended.

    Best –

    Pat Crawford
    Access Services Librarian

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